Digital phones have got your number

Digital phones are more expensive than simple analog models, of course, but come with many more functions.

digital phone 88 (photo credit: )
digital phone 88
(photo credit: )
Looking to buy a cordless phone recently, I quickly realized that most models sold these days are the digital, or DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication) phones. The simple analog models seem to be fading away; at a hardware store recently, I was offered one of these old-fashioned phones on sale for only NIS 30! Digital phones are more expensive of course, but come with many more functions. According to Elisheva Shohat-Shusterman, sales director of Philips Israel, DECT phones have been used in Europe for some 16 years already, but weren't allowed in Israel until some two years ago for security reasons because the frequency they used interfered with IDF communications equipment. Finally though, because no advanced analog phones were being manufactured that could compare with the digital models, and Bezek pressured to put up a suitable infrastructure for the latter, we have entered the digital age here as well. What differentiates digital cordless phones from analog cordless phones, says Shohat-Shusterman, is the better sound and the wider range. DECT phones will give you a clearer sound, without background noise, with a range usually up to 50 meters inside an apartment, and up to 300-350 meters outside when there is no obstruction in the way. They will also work through an internal wall if you walk away from the base station, something I've had bad experience with in the past with analog phones. DECT phones come with a wide range of functions, and the big difference in price is explained by adding functions such as an answering machine or the possibility to connect additional phone handsets to the base. Some phones can have up to six handsets connected to one base station. Obviously you still have only one phone line, so you cannot make calls at the same time, but the handsets can function as an intercom as well. DECT phones are getting smaller and look more and more like cellular phones, and have many of the same functions. Unfortunately, you won't see a phone that can serve as a regular phone and a cell phone at the same time any time soon, even though technically this is possible. Both Bezek and the cellular companies have no financial interest in developing such a system, especially since the latter are making a fortune at the consumer's expense. Several DECT phones have the possibility of sending SMS text messages, just like the cell phones. The question is of course if you really need this on a home phone. At any rate, it's mostly kids that use the SMS function, and usually on their own cell phone (which ensures more privacy). DECT phones come with a little screen, some of them a colored LCD-screen, where you can view the number you're dialing, or the incoming call, if you have caller-ID in your package, as well as other menu-functions. The fact that these phones look so much like cellular phones has its disadvantages too, especially because they can easily get lost. Many DECT phones have a pager-button on the base station that helps you track down a missing phone, so if you're a little absent-minded, this might be a function worth getting. Another thing you should check before buying is if the buttons are easy to press, and not too tiny. A hands-free or speaker phone function is also handy to have. At an Office Depot store where I checked, the prices for DECT phones ranged from about NIS 200 to NIS 750. The more expensive models have more options, such as the possibility to store up to 200 numbers. A sales representative at Office Depot highly recommended the Philips DECT 211, a relatively simple model, sold at NIS 299 (or NIS 492 for the twin set). This phone is supposedly easy to use and the sound is good. The only disadvantage is that the screen does not light up, so if the room is a little dark, you might have trouble seeing what you're dialing. The Philips 211 is now being replaced by the newer model Dect 221, which does have an LCD-screen that lights up, the possibility to store up to 30 numbers, a speaker phone and pager to find the handset; the Dect 221 is NIS 444 at Office Depot, and the Dect 225, with a digital answering machine built in, is NIS 540. A more expensive model sold at this store is the Panasonic KX-TG1850, sold at NIS 750. This model has a colored, fairly big LCD-screen, the possibility to store up to 200 numbers, the choice between 16 different ring tones, and the possibility to divide your stored numbers into different categories, with a different ring tone and background color for each category. The General Electric model GE-1850 is sold for NIS 650. This model enables you to send SMS-messages in Hebrew, has a colored LCD-screen, can store 100 names and numbers, and you can connect another four handsets to it. Another fact mentioned by the Office Depot sales rep was that the newer DECT phones use a 1.8 GHz frequency, as opposed to the 2.4 GHz frequency used by older models, which was the apparently problematic one because it was also used by the IDF. The calls made on a phone that uses the 1.8 GHz frequency are more difficult to intercept, so you won't have the unpleasant experience of finding someone else using your line. The newest revolution on the way seems to be DECT phones that also have the Skype function, a program you can download from the Internet and that enables you to make free phone calls to someone at the other end of the globe who also has Skype downloaded. The new DECT models that serve also as Skype phones let you call through Skype without having to sit at the computer. One such phone is the Siemens S440, sold at NIS 799. This phone has many options such as letting you store 200 numbers, sending SMS messages in Hebrew, change of ring tone according to who is calling, and it can serve as a Walkie Talkie. The Olympia Dual Phone model IP 9211 also double-serves as a Skype phone. For this you do pay a heavy price: NIS 980. Shohat-Shusterman says Philips will introduce a DECT Skype phone in Israel probably at the beginning of 2006.